Portuguese writer Saramago received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998 for such outstanding novels as Historia del cerco de Lisboa (The Siege of Lisboa, Alfaguara, 1999) and Ensayo sobre la ceguera (On Blindness, Alfaguara, 2001). In this newest addition to his philosophical fiction, he tells the story of a lonely and ordinary professor of history, Tertuliano M ximo Afonso, who, while watching a comedy on video, discovers that he has a double. Intrigued, Tertuliano finds his twin and gives him a call. From then on everything, even the narrator's voice, duplicates and mixes as irony leads to tragedy. Captivating as the story is, the doppelganger theme has already been exhausted, from Plautus to Jorge Luis Borges, and has been an especially cherished motif in Portuguese literature (Machado de Assis, Luis Vaz de Camoes, Jose Antonio Brandao). Saramago himself has already explored the subject of identity and otherness in Todos los nombres (All the Names, Alfaguara, 2001), with better results. But even though this novel is a minor work in his canon, Saramago is a master, and it shows in the luxurious language and paced control of nuances that make his clones different while dreadfully alike; his technique dazzles. While some readers will consider this book a deep and stylish meditation, others will find it a slow repetition of a common literary theme. Recommended for public and academic libraries, and bookstores.
Gustavo Pesoa, New York City Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.